‘The Irishman’ Budget was a Risk That Paid Off for Netflix

Netflix’s The Irishman budget was a whopping $160 million, making it the streamer’s most expensive film to date. But it’s a monetary risk that paid off.

“It’s a costly experiment, but Ted [Sarandos] and everyone at Netflix said they would go with it,” The Irishman director Martin Scorsese said during a press conference at the New York Film Festival. “They actually backed the film and financed it and were creatively attuned to us.” Scorsese even added that the development and production process included “no interference of any kind” and that Netflix executives just gave “some notes and things from time to time.”

Scorsese took the project to Netflix after Paramount, his usual studio, would not give him the budget he needed (at least $100 million). Netflix originally agreed to The Irishman budget of $125 million, but then the figure ballooned to $160 million during production when the director needed more for visual effects.

The Irishman budget is also surprising in that it’s one of Scorsese’s most expensive projects to date. His 2011 film Hugo cost somewhere between $150 and $170 million, while Wolf of Wall Street cost just $100 million. At 3 hours and 3 minutes, The Irishman run time also makes it Scorsese’s longest run time to date. Maybe Netflix figures that viewers at home won’t mind hitting pause to hit the bathroom and refill their popcorn?

The Irishman is a period piece and true story about mobster Frank Sheeran, who carried out more than 25 hits and was allegedly involved in the death of famed mob boss Jimmy Hoffa. The film, which is based on the 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, also offers the irresistible cast combination of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.

To make it eligible for awards such as the Oscars, The Irishman release date in theaters was November 1, 2019. Its streaming release date on Netflix is November 27, 2019.

If The Irishman seems like an odd choice for Netflix, remember that last year’s Roma – another serious movie by a well-known director – paid off for the streamer. Roma ended up winning three Oscars (and was nominated for seven others). With The Irishman, Netflix has made it clear that it wants to be part of the Oscar conversation every year.

With 290 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, The Irishman has an impressive score of 95% positive. A.O. Scott of The New York Times calls it “Big and solid — and also surprisingly, surpassingly delicate,” plus “a gift for cinephiles.” Meanwhile, Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune calls it “grand,” “an epic of sorts” that largely works even with digital “age-erasure” technology that can be distracting. 

Do you think The Irishman budget was worth it? Let us know in the comments!

In The Industry

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